Since the beginning of classes, I've had an empty hole in my schedule. It was originally German, but as I said last week, I wanted a bit more variety, and German would have been the fourth European language I could string a sentence together in. So I tried to take an education course about second language acquisition, which would have been fun, but I didn't have the prerequisite they wanted (intro to education). So I considered doing the language thing this year instead of next, with Hindi in the school's Alternative Language Study Option. But it turned out that would be mostly self-taught, and intensive, and I couldn't audit it, and also I wasn't especially enthusiastic about Hindi. So I thought about Intro to Econ, but it wouldn't fit my schedule like I wanted it to, and I wasn't enthusiastic about it either. Then I thought about something I'd discovered the previous day while chatting with Walter (the guy from camp) online. He's a linguistics major too (and two other majors that I can never remember), and he mentioned the JET program. This is a program wherein (I think I'm getting all this right) the Japanese government pays to bring recent college graduates to Japan from English-speaking countries, mainly the US, and help their English teachers teach English to high-school and junior-high kids. The Americans thus hired are paid ￥3,600,000, which sounds pretty impressive, and not too much less impressive when you convert it to ～$40,000 USD. I'd been thinking about it since I heard it mentioned, and I thought it sounded like a good opportunity to go abroad. I'd talked with my advisor inlinguistics about the remaining two years of my four-year plan, and she'd shown slight incredulity that I wasn't going abroad. She said it was something I really ought to consider, perhaps for fall next year. That was before I discovered JET. I do kind of regret not going abroad this year, but only kind of, because I think I did have good reasons for not going abroad. They were: that I think it'd be a more authentic abroad experience and I'd get a better feel for the culture if I weren't taking college classes while there; that I'm paying for a Grinnell education, so I might as well get what I'm paying for here and go abroad some other time; and that if I went abroad through Grinnell, I would have to pay a Grinnell tuition even though doing it by some means of my own could be a bunch cheaper. JET seems to get around all those problems by requiring me to graduate before applying and by paying me. So, to get back to where this paragraph was originally heading in its extremely roundabout way, I filled my empty course slot with Intro to Japanese.
It's an every-day class, and I added it about two weeks in, so I've had to make up work, but I'm managing pretty well, I think. I've already learned all the ひらがな (hiragana), though some of them come and go, and I'm pretty close to knowing all the カタカナ (katakana). We haven't started learning kanji yet, but I've picked up a few here and there (一、二、三、四、五、八、十、日本、本、円、and 人、which mean respectively 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, Japan, book, yen, and people). I can also pull together simple sentences, like 「わたしのおかあさんは四十四さいです」 and 「このペンは八十五円です。」 And I've figured out how to type in Japanese, which is pretty interesting and not required for the course as far as I know. I'm going to look into finding more programs like JET, perhaps one that could help me hone my Spanish too, but right now JET seems pretty sweet, especially the getting-paid-a-decent-amount part. Although I haven't researched it very extensively. Even if I don't go there, Japanese is still a pretty cool language.
The other really cool thing that happened last week was that some people from the archæology class went to Cahokia, myself included, to see the top atlatlists in the world throw spears with atlatls. It was a pretty casual event, with maybe forty people, and our professor was well known there. He used to be a pretty good thrower, but this year his back isn't letting him throw well. It looks like it should be easy to throw a spear with an atlatl, but we five students who threw were pretty sucky. We were usually lucky to just get the spear into the foam somewhere near the target, while the old hands were clustering one spear apiece, in groups of five, inside the 8-point zone routinely. It was pretty special. We also toured Monks Mound, the largest earthen mound worth of Mexico, which is right across the street from the museum where the competitions were held. From it we could clearly see the Gateway Arch, which I think is across the Mississippi River from there and several miles away. Yes, it's a big mound. The museum there was also one of the most informative, best laid out, keenest, and least tacky museums I've visited, although I don't do a whole lot of museumgoing. They had some weirdly lifelike plastic sculptures there, which (three of us who were together agreed) looked very plastic at first, but after a while of staring seemed as though they'd turn and go "Boo" any moment. When we students threw for the ISAC event (International Standard Accuracy Contest), I shot a 17, and the next morning a 22. To give some perspective, the highest score ever achieved so far is a 97. The veterans were throwing well into the 80s that day.
There's probably more stuff I could write about, but I've got no shortage of work, so that's all for now.